One way often mooted to help solve the housing crisis in the Netherlands is to encourage older people whose children have left home to downsize and free up large property for a new, young family.

However, it is proving difficult to set this in motion because developers, housing corporations and local authorities are not actually talking to elderly residents about their needs, according to Groningen University researcher Petra de Jong.

De Jong, an economic geographer specializing in housing demographics, has researched the issue of housing for the elderly for her PhD thesis. Persuading the elderly to move home requires alternatives that actually meet their needs, she said: ‘They need to be attractive and affordable, and people usually want to stay in the same neighbourhood.’

Urgency

While older people are often described as ‘occupying’ large houses, ‘as long as they don’t feel the urgency to move because, for example, of their physical limitations, then they don’t see the need,’ De Jong told NOS Radio 1 news.

‘Yes, the house might be a bit large and the garden a bit difficult to manage, but people are often attached to both their home and their locality,’ she said. ‘It has been the stage for many precious memories.’

In addition, elderly home owners have often paid off their mortgages, so the costs are low. ‘And aside from this, moving demands money and creates upheaval, so it gets put off as long as possible,’ she said.

This means the standard approach to housing for seniors is not enough to have an impact,’ De Jong said.  ‘They should be involved from the start of the development process. Talk to them and find out what their demands and preferences are,’ she said. ‘But don’t pretend to know what the elderly want, because they are an extremely diverse group.’

Housing targeting seniors in the Netherlands is often marketed at the over-55s.